Saturday, March 31, 2007

John Pugh XXIV: 'Nunc Dimitis'

John Pugh, founder and Superintendent of the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement passed into his eternal reward on 24 March 1907, Palm Sunday, one hundred years and one week from today. To the last, he was concerned for the souls of the people of Wales. His daughter, Ann, described his final hours:

"A short while before he left us I was sitting with him in his room when the Rev. F. W. Cole [pictured] came in. He prayed with us, and when he had finished my father said, 'Francis, will you take charge of Heath Hall? They are without a minister and there is a great opportunity for the Kingdom of God.' He promised to do so.
"The same evening Dr Cunningham Bowie, the doctor who attended my father and was his great friend, came in and told me in his hearing, 'There is no reason that your father should die; with his constitution he could live another twenty years, but he has completely burned himself out. If your Connexion had given him a telephone and a car, the bare necessities to enable him to accomplish the more easily all he has done in less than fifteen years, he could have lived.'
"'But,' said my father, taking hold of my hand, 'the Saviour died when he was 33 and I am 60. Don't "rust". Wear yourself out for His sake, my child.'
Those were his last words.
The funeral was held at the huge Crwys Hall, which was packed many hours before his coffin arrived there. As well as many of those common people for whose sake Pugh had spent himself , the funeral was attended by many luminaries of Welsh life. The Lord Mayor of Cardiff was present, as were six Members of Parliament. It could almost have been a state funeral of the sort accroded to senior military officers. The funeral orations dwelt on Pugh's selflessness and zeal for Christ. Perhaps the most stirring was that of Alfred Thomas, Lord Pontypridd, a Baptist and fomer MP. He praised Pugh's courage in seeking to win Wales for Christ, remembering times when Pugh had sought out men feared by the Police, with a perfect love that cast out fear. In the eyes of Lord Pontypridd, had pugh been ambitious for himself, he could easily have become the leader of a new denomination. But, like George Whitfield, Pugh was quite content to let the name of a mere man perish so that Christ could be exalted.
Hundreds of people from the different Forward Movement Centres crowded the graveside to pay their last respects to the man who had shown such love for them. A great many had walked, unable to pay bus or tram fares. Hymns were sung, as the official proceedings continued in Crwys Hall. Jack Turner, a member at Saltmead Hall, spoke impromptu:
"Brothers, the one thing that John Pugh loved to do above all else was to present ourselves to Christ. If we haven't done that already, let's do it now, and afresh, and uteerly, as he taught us to do, so that we may be worthy to stand at his graveside. Now, my brothers, as for being able to live a worthy life in our own strength - a life similar to his - that we cannot do. Bit in Christ we are able and all we need do is to respond to his promptings in our hearts. May this day be a turning point in our lives and the start of a better life."
'And all the people said "Amen."' Many wept aloud, a sight more moving in those more stoic times. Sethb Joshua led the crowds in a hymn. Among the crowd were the Thirty evangelists of the Forward Movement, lieutenants mourning their General, or children mourning their father in Christ.
As the crowd disperrsed, the grave-diggers began their task. One of them asked: 'Why is there such a commotion? He wasn't a bishop or anything.' One of those mourners who lingered gave the only appropriate reply: 'No he wasn't, but he was more than a bishop. He spoke to me about Jesus Christ and what he could do for me - that's what he told me.'
And his gravestone still stands in Cathays cemetery, facing Crwys Hall, close to the boundary wall. While his bones await the final judgement, his spirit having gone to be 'Forever with the Lord.'


Friday, March 30, 2007

John Pugh XXIII: 'Glimmers of Twilight'

As the revival tide ebbed, it seemed that an era was drawing to an end. In 1904, John Thomas, Pastor at Heath, had been appointed assistant to John Pugh. The difficulties of the Movement increased as a number of stalwarts passed from the scene, Richard Lloyd-Jones and Dr. William James of Manchester, prominent clerical supporters, and Richard Davies, Bodlondeb, a wealthy man who gave freely of his fortune. Shortly after Pugh'd death, John Cory would also be called home. Money was tight, and that bowed Pugh down.

In early 1906, John Pugh and his wife travelled to the Holy Land. Pugh, who would soon stand in the halls of the Heavenly Jerusalem, saw the domes and minarets of the Old. As we have seen, Pugh attended the laying of the foundation stones at Heath Hall in April 1906, while in September of that year, Pugh was at the opening of the Pierce Hall, the schoolroom of Crwys Hall. As winter came, so Pugh began to fade. He ignored Doctor's orders to preach one more time, in Acrefair, where he preached on II Corinthians 13.5: 'Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith.' After this, he was confined to home.

His last public words appeared in the March 1907 edition of The Torch:

"The Prince of Peace is with us in our attempt to rescue perishing humanity. Must we go back? The cry from Liverpool. London, Bristol and from two dozen densely populated areas in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire for the help of the Forward Movement is heart rending to those who know their moral and spiritual needs. Are we to retreat owing to lack of funds? Some of the most talented and Spirit filled ministers have joined our ranks recently. We need more. With loyal support and the cheer of God's people we won't go back."

Visits from Seth Joshua served to lift Pugh's spirits, as the old soldiers reminisced. Pugh knew that soon he would be called to meet the Lord he had served so tirelessly.


Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, I shall be preaching at Barrow Strict Baptist Chapel (Cave Adullum) on the Lord's Day. This will be my second visit to Barrow.
The Church is only about fourteen years old, but the chapel over 150. It was built by a congregational Church that is now extinct. There is a plate in the chapel (yes, the sort you eat food off) from the Congregational centenary in 1938. By the time the Strict Baptists bought it, the chapel had become derelict. Now it has been restored to something like its former glory. The chapel is a neat building in the Gothic style (meaning that it has pointy windows) with a very large pulpit for such a small building. The Pulpit is original. The Church is friendly, welcoming, and firmly in the historic Strict Baptist tradition of William Gadsby and J.C. Philpot.
Services this coming Lord's Day will be at 11 AM and 2:30 PM, God willing. The congregation is usually about twenty.

(Illustration: Bury St. Edmunds Station, nearest rail station to Barrow)


Thursday, March 29, 2007

John Pugh XXII: 'Love Vast as the Ocean'

While Revival is often seen as a spontaneous outpouring of the Spirit of God, we have already seen that an extensive preparatory work took place in South Wales prior to 1904, the year in which Evan Roberts was baptised by the Spirit after a prayer-meeting in Blaenannerch at which Seth Joshua prayed. However, with 1904 would come the full tide. The halls built in faith would fill, and one would truly come to birth.

Pugh, however, took little part in these events. The strain of acting as the great bulwark of the Forward Movement had begun to tell on him. Although he had left aside the ministry at Clifton Street in order to concentrate full time on his duties as Superintentent of the Forward Movement, his great frame was beginning to wear out. It was Seth, his faithful lieutenant who crossed Wales during those amazing years, preaching 'Christ and Him Crucified.' His letters to Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis reveal that it was at this time Joshua was baptised by the Spirit, on the spot where Glamorgan County Cricket Ground now stands.

December 1904 saw the full tide of Revival reach Cardiff. After one service in Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, in the town centre, the chapel emptied, as the Spiritdescended, the congregation spilling out into the open-air, sining ang praying. Men exhorted passers by, in Pentecostal scenes. At Pembroke Terrace church, Seth Joshua experienced a spirit of opposition, while men at a meeting in Salem Chapel, Canton were openly hostile. Even so, people were converted.

Pugh saw in the power of the revival a corrective to the dry, often academic spirit which had begun to blight the colleges. Modernism was already spreading within the colleges. Still, Pugh was concerned that the merely emotional aspects of the revival had resulted in false conversions, and that many of those who had professed faith after such strong emotional experiences might go back into the world, worse even then they had come out.

By late 1905, the tide was ebbing, although there were still glimmers of blessing. The anniversary service of Memorial Hall felt a touch of the Spirit.

The Forward Movement Halls shared in the general blessing. At Heath Hall, only four years old, the Forward movement Torch reported: 'Our Heath Centre is all alive with revival fire, and the hall has become too small ... to receive the people who are anxious to hear the word of life.' In the wake of the revival a new church building, capable of holding up to 850 people was erected (interior pictured). John Pugh was present for the laying of the foundation stones on 4 April 1906. He had recently returned from a trip abroad, taken on account of his health.

Within a year, he was with the Lord.


The history of a denomination: XXX.

1929 saw another General Election, and another narrow victory for the Socialists. Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister, but James Barr was not given a seat in the Cabinet. The result had no effect on the Union Assembly.
The United Free Church Assembly reconvened on 1st October 1929, and when they did there was a fine silver casket on the clerks' table, presented along with the freedom of the city of Edinburgh to the Moderator, Principal Alexander Martin. It was a gift from the city honouring him for his role in the Union.
The last report of the Union Committee was given. It was mostly taken up with the property agreement reached with the dissenting body of the Church. In addition to their churches and manses they had been awarded £25,000 and were allowed to retain the name of 'The United Free Church of Scotland' provided that they affixed the word 'Continuing' to it for five years. The difference between this and the harsh treatment meted out to the minority in 1900 is startling at first, but only until one realises that the 1929 settlement was deliberately designed to prevent a repetition of the events of 1900-1904 embarassing the Union.
The continuing body still continues under the name of the United Free Church of Scotland. It is a broadly evangelical body, although it has approved the ordination of women since the 1930s. Congregations from both United Presbyterian and Free Church backgrounds adhered to the Continuing party.
After some routine business had been done, Dr. Harvey moved that the House adjourn, to meet the following day in the Hall at 10 AM, then to proceed to the High Kirk of St. Giles at 11 to meet with the Church of Scotland Assembly for worship and thanksgiving before proceeding to the Hall of Assembly in Annandale Street where the Union would take place and the first General Assembly of the new Church of Scotland would take place.
Dr. Forrester, representing the dissenters, moved that the Assembly should not proceed with the Union, but rather adjourn to meet the next day in St. Andrew's Hall, Glasgow. Should Dr. Harvey's motion be adopted, he said, the minority would make no protest, but the Church would divide. Of course the Union went ahead, and the United Free Church split. The minority went to have their Assembly elsewhere.

Meanwhile the majority of the United Free Church were going into Union with the Church of Scotland. That night the Lord Provost, Magistrates and Town Council of Edinburgh held a reception in Parliament House to which the members of the two uniting Assemblies were invited. There was something of a carnival atmosphere in the Athens of the North.
The morning of the Union was wild and stormy with heavy rain and high winds. The two Assemblies met separately for the last time at ten in the morning, and at eleven they processed, headed by their respective Moderators, from their halls. Crowds lined the routes.
Two two processions met at the junction of Bank Street and the High Street, where the Moderators shook hands. A great cheer went up, and as the processions merged into one the crowd spontaneously began to sing. The song was one of the old Psalms, and the tune was 'Eastgate.'

"Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well,
Together such as brethren are
In unity to dwell."

About two thousand ministers and elders entered St. Giles Kirk by the great west door for a service of thanksgiving. Though the Union was not formally consummated for some hours, it was really already a fact. The old United Free Church, formed in 1900, was no more. Most of it had merged into the Church of Scotland, and a few dissenters remained to re-fashion a Church according to their views.
The Act of Union was signed in the great Annandale Street Hall, and there finally the history of the United Free Church as formed in 1900 came to an end.

God willing, next time we shall consider some of the lessons of this history.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The history of a denomination: XXIX.

The Assembly of 1929 had a festival air to it. It was to be the last General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland as constituted by the Union of 1900.
The Lord High Commissioner, representing the crown, was H.R.H. Prince Albert, Duke of York, a sign of the deep interest the King felt in the events taking place in Scotland between the two great Churches. Principal Martin was installed as United Free Church Moderator, and he wore the traditional robes. As his great predecessor Robert Rainy had led the Free Church majority in 1900, so Alexander Martin would lead the United Free majority now. In his opening address he naturally spoke of the great historical processes now coming to a climax. The address was broadcast on the BBC throughout Scotland.
The United Free Church Assembly wanted to enter the Union without a debt. For one thing, to enter in debt might make it appear that they had discovered the voluntary system of supporting the Church did not actually work, and so they were running to where the money - in the form of endowments - was. The main source of debt was, as ever, foreign missions. As a debate went on about setting up an enquiry, Dr. J. Robertson Cameron of Kintyre rose and said boldly, "My suggestion is that we, here and now, every man and woman of us, rise up and wipe off this deficit, and I shall begin with THAT!"
He put down a cheque for fifty pounds on the table. During the debate alone, nearly three thousand pounds was given. Although Assembly rules forbade a collection being taken up, an open suitcase was left on the table, watched over by two clerks. By the end of the Assembly it was bulging with cash and cheques amounting to well over six thousand pounds.
How many matters would be better dealt with by prompt action, rather than giving them to committees to be sat upon?
The day of the Union report was like a fete, the appearance increased by the presentation of a huge bouquet of pink roses and ferns by the Church of Scotland Union committee.
It was reported that of the 63 home presbyteries, 61 had approved of the Unite Free Church Declaration that her principles remained intact and only one had not. Of the overseas presbyteries, 10 approved, and 5 had not sent in any return. Every Presbytery had approved the plan of Union and the basis of Union, with the exception of Manchuria, which had not sent a return. Under the Barrier Act the plan was passed. Union had been declared for! A few kirk sessions and congregations had disapproved, but not enough to damage or derail the plan. The Declaraction was adopted without even an official opposition amendment.
When the Union Committee's report was called for, a protest was tabled by Dr. Forrester, signed by himself and fifteen others. Dr. Drummond, giving the report, presented it with all the force and winsomeness he was capable of. As for Barr and Forrester, they merely paraded the old arguments, heard by all and convincing to very few. It was too long, and not really relevant. Barr found problems where few others could see them, and finally only 39 supported his anti-union amendment. It was James Barr's last speech in the Assembly. Many regretted the departure of the dissenters, but the Union would not be wrecked on so small a rock, and Barr and his brethren went forth. Those who had argued that the minority of 1900 should give up all its rights to its property were now in the position of that minority, and hoping for better treatment.
The Church of Scotland also voted for Union. Although Union might have taken place at once, it was deferrd until 2nd October while final preparations were made for a great public Union such as that of 1900.

And so, amid brilliant sunshine, the last General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (which is what our illustration shows) broke up. When next they met, it would be to form a part of what had been the dream of Principal Rainy's biographer, a Church in Scotland 'United, National and Free'.

That union, God willing, shall be our subject next time.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The history of a denomination: XXVIII.

The Assembly of 1928 was the penultimate full General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland. The two Churches had come to the very brink, and there was no turning back. Shades of 1899 arose for United Free Churchmen. Just as then, two great Churches were about to unite, and one was about to divide. Yet, in a delicious piece of historical irony, the central issue in that division was the same as that of 1900 - and the men who were now the dissenters were those who had been most enthusiastic then! So true it is that 'as ye sow, so shall ye reap.'
The Moderator of that Assembly was Dr. Harry Miller of Edinburgh. Another former Glasgow student, Miller was famous for his work in the slum district of Edinburgh with the rather ironic name of 'the Pleasance'. Once the site of a royal garden, it had become a sink of iniquity. But the Pleasance Church, under Dr. Miller, had pursued vigorous evangelism, and now it was a garden of the Lord. Miller, born in 1869, was still a relatively young man, and they dubbed him 'The Boy Moderator'. He spoke on 'Our Heritage and Our Task,' with of course the Union in view. Principal Martin remained in his place as the de facto leader of the Church, and he would once again be called to the Moderator's Chair for the Uniting Assembly of 1929.
Business still had to be carried out, and once again the College Committee had to fill up a vacated place. Dr. Clow of Glasgow had resigned as Professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Training and as Principal. He was granted the status of Principal emeritus. The office of Principal was filled by the most senior of the remaining Professors, Dr. W. M. MacGregor, New Testament Professor. Arthur J. Gossip of Aberdeen was elected to the Chair of Christian Ethics and Practical Training.
As usual there were distinguished representatives of foreign Churches in the Assembly. The most notable of these was M. Paul Fuzier of Paris, from the Evangelical Reformed Church of France. He was of genuine Huguenot stock, with forefathers who had suffered and died for the Faith once for all delivered. One had spent the ten years from 1700 to 1710 chained to an oar in a royal galley for the crime of possessing a Huguenot communion token. What is worse, the man was already seventy when he was so chained!
France was even then the most secular country in Europe. Explaining this fact, M. Furzier noted that the average Frenchman was suspicious of Christianity because he mistook Roman Catholicism for it.
The visit of Dr. J. Montgomery Campbell of Dumfries, the Church of Scotland Moderator, was the most cordial of all the visits - for the next time the Moderators of the Churches met it would be to merge both Churches into one, and there would be one Moderator and one Assembly.
The hall was crowded for the report of the Union Committee. The result had already been anticipated, of course, but it remained to be seen what James Barr and his cohorts would do. It was moved that the Assembly, instead of immediately sending down the draft Uniting Act to the Presbyteries under the Barrier Act, to declare that the time for Union had come, and to adjourn the Committee until November, thus giving the Presbyteries a few more months to scrutinize the terms of Union. The Act would then, if appropriate, be sent down. Every attempt had been made to accomodate the dissenters. What was wrong, Dr. Drummond, the representative of the Committee, aske, with the plan? What was the objection? If it was to the 'vestiges of establishment', well, vestiges are the remains of what WAS, not something that IS. No, what they had was disestablishment in all but name. What had happened in Scotland was practically what had happened in Wales - and that HAD been called Disestablishment!
To the joy of the House, several of James Barr's former partisans now came over to the other side. But Barr was not cowed. Now he launched his last speech. He knew that he could not prevent Union, so he threw caution to the wind. No more delaying motions, no more talk of a process of consultation. He laid down HIS demands. It amounted to this: that the Church of Scotland must be publically humiliated by Parliament (strange, from one who professed a dislike to Parliament meddling in religious matters). First a bill must be passed declaring the Church of Scotland no longer to be by law established and that the compulsory payment of the land-charge that supported the Church had to be abolished. Commutation he declared to be 'endowment for evermore', forgetting that, if that was so, the disestablished Welsh Church had been 'endowed for evermore. He had not changed - but the Church had.
A more extreme amendment was suggested by Mr. Small of North Berwick. He wanted the Church of Scotland to divest itself of its endowments in order to please a few United Free Churchmen. No-one even seconded him. In a vote only 53 declared for Barr's motion, and in the end some 23 signed the formal dissent with him - no more than had formed the despised 'Wee Frees' in 1900.
The Assembly adjourned on 30th May to meet again on 21st November. It was on 20th November that Principal Martin was unanimously appointed Moderator of the 1929 Assembly - the very last of the United Free Church as it then stood.
The final sessions of the United Free Church Assembly of 1928 found that the plan of Union was approved. Dr. Martin declared that the principles of the Church were intact, so, "If Mr. Weir (one of the other dissenters) means leaving us, he need not think to carry the principles and constitution of our Church away with him, like another samson carrying off the doors and posts of the city. May I recall to the House the words of that narrative? 'And he arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts with them, BAR AND ALL, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron'."
The joke convulse the Assembly with laughter. Seriously, Barr and his party would be left with nothing but Disestablishment as their principle. While they might talk about preserving the historic testimony for liberty, the United Church would be as free as they were!
Only 48 voted with Barr, and only 27 signed the protest against union. This time there was a desire to reach a property settlement with the seceders. But only once Union was achieved and it was known who was in and who was out would that be done.
Meanwhile the Church of Scotland had adopted the Union report. The way was clear. All that remained now was for the Presbyteries to approve Union itself. All Scotland waited for the result, the Assemblies of 1929.

And that, God willing, will be our subject next time.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Hymns in Translation: VI

Continuing our presentation of the many ways in which a wonderful Welsh Hymn has been rendered into English:

From life's dreary desert ascending
To paradise, realm of the blest;
My soul filled with gladness transcending
On Jesus' Calm bosom shall rest,
Rejoicing in safety supernal-
From sin, and affliction, and pain -
Extolling in antems eternal
The love of the lamb that was slain.
From Salem's fair heights we shall witness
Our way through the dester of life,
And then we shall see the sweet fitness
Of all its strange sorrows and strife:
Its storms shall we see and its fears,
And death-from the mansions above-
When, safe from its terrors and tears,
We revel in peace and in love.
Rev. Gethin Davies

Friday, March 23, 2007

John Pugh XXI: Into the Valleys

The early work of the Forward Movement had been among the people of the South Wales coastal towns. It was inevitable, however, that the movement would begin to look up the railway tracks which led into the valleys, hard coal mining towns, most notable among them being Merthyr Tydfil.

Sergeant Barker, formerly of Saltmead Hall, moved to Merthyr in 1905, reporting back his conclusions to Pugh, who published them in the Forward Movent Torch. Seth Joshua joined Barker to evangelise the notorious town, reporting to Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis:

"A hard fight is going on with the forces of darkness. Nearly every error under the sun finds root in this place. There are strong spiritualistic societies, ethical societies, agnostics, Christadelphians, and the last importation would be the Pentecostal Dancers. Strange to say they are drawing a strong following at Dowlais. We ourselves have seen the temperance hall crowded for the past fortnight and every service we see victory in conversions. Still I never felt Satanic forces so strong at this place."

A hall was built at Penydarren, initially ministering in the Welsh language, but switching to English as the area became increasingly anglicised.

In the Rhondda, a hall was opened at Treorchy in 1891, gaining a congregation of 130 within two years, as well as a thriving Sunday School. A year later, the Forward Movement took over the English language work at the Graig, a suburb of Pontypridd. John Thomas, a Forward Movement evangelist, launched a frontal assault on Porth, where a hall seating 700 people was opened in January 1894, despite fierce opposition. In the same year, a hall was opened at Treharris. By 1907, Halls had opened at Maesteg, Cwm Park, Abercynon (pictured), and three other towns in the valley.

At the same time, the work of the Forward Movement expanded in the valleys of Monmouthshire. Halls were opened at Cross Keys, Abercarn, Abertillery, Ebbw Vale and Elliotstown. At Pontypool, the Rev. Watkin Williams began a work in 1904. His untiring efforts bore fruit, with a church of one hundred and fifty members being formed within the first year. The hall was named St. David's after Pugh's old church at Pontypridd.

In Elliotstown, John Harris preached alone on street corners, for that mining town was not even possessed of the nucleus ofa church. Harris' efforts were swiftly rewarded, his sermons attracting growing crowds. Soon Harris was able to rent a hall. By the end of the first year, there was a growing church of fifty-eight members, which was growing too large for the hired building.

God was blessing the work mightily, but there was far more to come. Soon, the Holy Spirit was to be poured out in power over Wales.


The history of a denomination: XXVII.

The United Free Church met with some sorrow in 1927. Dr. Archibald Henderson, one of the chief architects of the Union between the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland, had died six weeks before the date set for the Assembly. Yet the Union was not founded on him, and new leaders had risen up. Henderson's mantle had fallen on Principal Martin of New College. It was nevertheless regretted that Henderson would not live to see the union that he had worked so long for.
The Moderator was Dr. James Weatherhead of Dundee, another former Free Church minister. Dr. Weatherhead had planted a Church in Giffnock in 1900, and since 1905 he had been minister of United Free St. Paul's, Dundee. Dr. Weatherhead was an energetic man. In his address he spoke on two questions, 'What is wrong with the world?' and 'What is wrong with the Church?' Dealing mainly with the second question, he referred to criticisms of the Church that were common, but without foundation. He indicated the evil influences working on the minds of people, a cold, materialistic philosophy, a modern paganism. What was the answer? The Church had to keep on teaching the same message - the Gospel. Yes, it must be ensured that the message was preached so that people understood it, but fundementally it had to remain the same message.
The United Free Church Semi-Jubilee Thanksgiving Fund report was most encouraging. It had reached the desired sum - £100,000 - and therefore the foreign missions fund was saved. They could go forward still!
Principal Martin retired from his Chair of Apologetics at New College that year, but he retained his principalship, and his leadership of the Union movement. The Chair of Church History in the Glasgow College was also vacant, since Dr. Moffatt had been called from that Chair to Union Seminary, New York (notoriously liberal).
Although the natural thought was of replacing the men, Dr. Troup of Brughty Ferry moved for delay, suggesting that in view of the coming Union, when changes would have to be made in the Colleges, it would be prudent not to be appointing new professors who might have to be removed in a year or so. He was overruled, and Mr. Daniel Lamont was appointed to the Edinburgh Chair and Mr. W. D. Niven to the Glasgow Chair.
But everything else faded into the background compared to the Union Report. With amazing rapidity the joint-committee had come to agreement on the plan and basis of union. Everything seemed ready. Principal Martin spoke of Henderson as a Moses come to the verg of Jordan. Now the Moses was dead, and the Joshua (Martin never made the comparison, of course, but it was obvious to others) was ready to lead the people over the Jordan of Union and into a new land.
The plan of union provided, he pointed out, everything that was necessary. Most importantly, it provided freedom. Freedom from state control and freedom of conscience within the United Church. Martin invited James Begg and all his party to join the United Church. Of course they refused. They argued for delay, brought up hypothetical objections, insisted that everything - every jot and tittle - be settled before Union. They forgot that everything had not been settled in 1900. One of the silliest objections was to the name 'the Church of Scotland'. The objector said it was exclusive, and he preferred 'the Presbyterian Church of Scotland' - despite the fact that there were at least four other Presbyterian Churches in Scotland who would have been excluded by that name.
The debate lasted for five hours. On a division the vote was found to be 675 in favour of going forward and 126 preferring delay. The fact that the opposition vote was for delay, not against Union, must be noted well.
Dr. Norman Maclean, Church of Scotland Moderator, spoke of the great and wonderful change from the days of his youth when the two Assemblies had breated out threatenings - though not, it must be said in all fairness, slaughter - at each other across the Grassmarket. Those days were over, and soon there would only be one Assembly on the Grassmarket.

How that happened we shall see, God willing, next time.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

John Pugh XX: Women's Ministry

The 'Women's Branch' of the Forward Movement began in the summer of 1894. Mrs Pugh was the driving force in the movement, among whose objectives were the rescue of prostitutes and keeping girls from being sucked into prostitution. These objectives were challenging, but they were also practical. The Calvinistic Methodist Association at Llanrwst saw this organisation start to expand on a national basis. Following the Amlwch Association, a woman worker was employed to work with Saltmead Hall.

Recent events have suggested that the idea of 'women's ministry' is in some way controversial. In fact, what is meant is the idea that women should play the part of men Pugh, for his part, had no doubt about the value of women's ministry:

"I am persuaded that a bird could as soon fly with one word as the Church of God can evangelise the great centres of population without Christ-possessed women to go in and out among the suffering poor. There is a work that no-one can do for Christ but them. It must be left undone for ever unless they turn to do it, by providing the means or volunteer to do it themselves."

Following the example of William Ross' Cowcaddens ministry, Pugh appointed 'Sisters of the People' to work among the poor and 'immoral women.' By 1909, there were eight such Sisters, stationed in eight Movement centres.

More, the Forward Movement's organisers were well aware of the difficulties such woem faced. It is not enough to hand a Gospel tract to a prostitute. Nor is it enough to tell a prostitute that she should turn from her sin. Women must have an alternative given to them. Women might profess conversion, but if they returned to their old surroundings, the old pressures soon became unbearable.

The Women's Branch and four Sisters petioned the Cardiff Committee in 1905, asking for the authority to establish a home for women leaving a life of prostitution. Two houses were purchased on Corporation Road, Grangetown, named 'Treborth Home' after the house of Mrs. Richard Davies, a major contributor to the purchase. The Pastor of Saltmead Hall, George Howe, was placed in charge of the home, work which he and his wife undertook for free. In the first year, the home served over one hundred and twenty-six women, girls and babies. In the home, the women were treated well and helped to find alternative employment (normally as domestic servants), children looked after to allow their mothers to work and support them. The home grew, eventually moving to a large house with its own grounds off Cowbridge Road, Canton, a setting far removed from the squalor of the streets.
The Sisters of the People were able to go where male evangelists could not, to visit brothels during the day, reach women individually before drawing them to the home with cords of love. The ministry of these sisters was amazing, hundreds led to Christ, lives mended and women saved from sin and death.
At the same time, the Forward Movement began to push into the industrial valleys.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Pugh XIX: 'Rescue the Perishing'

John Pugh's preaching was driven by a great concern for the multitudes who were perishing in the midst of a country considered to be one of the most religious in the world. No-where was this more evident than in one of the most horrifying tradgedies for any woman - prostitution.

Today, many of these 'fallen women' are immigrants from Eastern Europe, in the 1890s, the majority would have been immigrants from Mid-Wales, as well as those brought up on the margins of society. The Forward Movement sought to reach through the curatin of silence with which respectable society had covered prostitution - Pugh recognised that Jesus is a great Saviour, for great sinners.

His approach was inspired by that of his friend, the Rev. William Ross of Cowcaddens. Ross had employed female missioners, known as 'Sisters of the People' to minister to the needs of women, and especially to those whom men could not approach without danger, and who might react badly to being approached by such people. These 'Sisters' had trained for the mission field and lived among the people. When Pugh visited Ross in 1893, he took his daughter, in her late teens, with him. She went out with one of the sisters, into the crowded streets of Glasgow. Miss Pugh felt the shame and anger that any respectable young woman might, but not compassion for the women, who she in part felt were responsible for their plight. The sister she was with, Sister Jennie, engaged a young prostitute in conversation:

"A girl stood in a doorway of a house, touting for work. The sister went up to her - 'Here is the last flower I have left,' she said, 'Would you like to have it?' The girl in the doorway took the simple gift and replied, 'It's been a long time since anyone gave me a flower' and then she added, 'It's been a long time since a respectable girl even spoke to me at all.' Sister Jennie looked at her and said, 'You're not very happy are you. Can I do anything for you?' 'No! There's nothing that can be done.' 'There might be. Think about it- anyway you know where you can find me, don't you? Come in to see me and let me be your friend.'

And the flower brought the girl in. Such unexpected kindness melted the heart of the young prostitute.
The towns of South Wales, however 'respectable' the Welsh might think themselves, contained as many prostitutes as Glasgow. Sergeant Barker, evangelist at Saltmead Hall, appalled the Calvinistic Methodist Association at Amlwch by his description of the conditions in Saltmead:
'From three hundred to four hundred fallen women reside in my district. There are more than one hundred houses empty of families because they are occupied for immoral purposes. I know girls going straight from sabbath school to the streets and thirty of them have gone since I am at Saltmead. These girls are expected to adopt this life even by some of their parents.'
Shock, however, was not enough. Something had to be done to reach these perishing souls.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

John Pugh XVIII: Statesman

Today's evangelical scene can often seem more international than in the past, with Christians in Britain looking as much to America as to their own back-yard for favourite preachers and theologians. This is nothing new, as we have seen from the visit of Moody and Sankey to Cardiff. And the still-expanding British Empire presented other spheres of activity.

Although Pugh generally restricted his activities to Wales, rejecting a suggestion he should accompany Moody to Chicago, he was too well-known to avoid international recognition. A visit to South Africa on doctor's orders in 1896 saw Pugh preaching to Welsh settlers in the colony in their native language - a departure for the man who had been called to be evangelist to the English-speaking people of South Wales.

And in 1899, Pugh was invited as a delegate to the pan-Presbyterian Alliance in Washington. The vigorous style of the evangelist shook the normally staid Presbyterians with a description of his work, even getting the assembled delegates to sing a Moody and Sankey hymn - many of the delegates were Psalms-only. The Washington Post carried a report of the address of this plain evangelist. Pugh, for his part, identified a serious weakness of the gathering: "The Alliance is good, solid, but it lacked somewhat in brightness and enthusiasm. There was not sufficent Methodism in it." Surely a verdict on much of modern reformed Christianity.

There, too, Pugh preached to Welsh churches and met the President, whose plainness and lack of protection impressed him (this would have been William McKinley). On his departure, the University of Kentucky conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity on Pugh.

On his return, Pugh saw the opening of the hall at Heath. The work in Cardiff was expanding, drawing more to Christ. And these were not simply 'respectable' people, but those to whom the Saviour came, the rough men, the prostitutes and drunkards. It is with these people that the next two posts will deal.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Hymns in Translation V

Continuing our examination of the ways in which a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Hymn has been rendered into English. The illustration is of the sadly battered and derelict Hount Hermon Wesleyan Chapel, Splott Bridge.
To us from the desert ascending
God giveth in paradise rest;
Our soul after weary contending
Shall peacefully lean on his breast:
There we shall escape from affliction,
From sin with its shame and its pain;
Enjoying the full benediction,
The love of the Lamb that was slain.
From the hills of the Beautiful City
The way of the desert is clear;
What joy will there be in reviewing
The journey's meanderings here!
To look on the storms as they gather,
On terrible death and the grave;
While we shall be safe with the Father,
In peace on love's shadowless wave.
Translation unknown


Saturday, March 17, 2007

John Pugh XVII: Blessing to the West

Just as the work of the Forward Movement spead to Newport in the East, so the evangelists looked to the West, where ports and industry were growing, drawing people from rural Wales and England. David Davies, father of Edward, and Wales' first millionaire, had opened a new coal dock at Barry, which soon became the largest coal-exporting port in the world. The town did not replace Cardiff, as had been Davies' intention, however, and with the exception of the offices of the Barry Dock Company (pictured), the offices of the coal companies remained centred on the Coal Exchange in Cardiff. Barry became what it remains, a rough, raw town, known for its spiritual difficulties.

A work was begun in Barry, coming to fruition in the opening of Dinam Hall (pictured) in 1903. Its construction was in response to the dying wishes of the Forward Movement's treasurer, Edward Davies. Its most notable minister was the Rev. Griffith Griffiths, a man who had laboured long in the mission field. This experience stood him in good stead at Barry, where his congregation included sailors from all over the world. Sadly, the fortunes of Dinam Hall declined with those of the port, and the building was demolished in 1997, the same decade that Memorial Hall went.
In Neath, above Swansea, great blessing attended the ministry of Frank Joshua of the Neath Mission. By 1900, this mission had been taken on by the Forward Movement, and Frank Joshua ordained. Within hours of this arrangement being formalised, John Pugh and John Morgan Jones had made arrangements to build a large permanent mission hall. A plot of land close to the old hall was bought, and a new hall erected, at a cost of £2,500. The new building held over two thousand, a size necessary for the rapidly-expanding congregation.

Between Neath and Cardiff lay Aberavon, a town that began to grow much from the opening of docks there in 1897. The flood of railway workers led to great concern among the local churches, who asked the Forward Movement for help. Pugh, who had been a railway worker himself, was not slow to respond. In June of that year, a school hall was erected in the Sandfields area of Aberavon. The work soon grew, only to fall back under two Pastors whose work was denied blessing. After 1907, the work advaced in fits and starts. It was not until 1914 that the church was able to erect a church building. Blessing was largely denied to the church, and one minister, T. J. Lewis, left the church 'with a broken heart.' It was not until the appointment of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to the pastorate in late 1926 that the church enjoyed a season of significant blessing.


Friday, March 16, 2007

John Pugh XVI: Great Blessing in Cardiff

In Cardiff the Forward Movement continued to be blessed. The work in Canton moved into a permanent home, the Davies Memorial Hall, seating 1,250 people, with attached schoolrooms, sited on Cowbridge Road East (this building was demolished in 1994, and I have not been able to locate a photograph).

The evangelists moved their tent to the Saltmead area of Cardiff, clearing the site themselves. A hard area, notorious for prostitution, was gradually transformed by the work of the movement, until an article in 1948 referred to the area as 'one of the most respectable working class areas in Cardiff.'

The coming of the Taff Vale railway to Cardiff saw the expansion of the Cathays area of Cardiff. The rapid growth of the area left the churches unprepared. Pugh had had his eye on the area, and organised meetings there, while he negotiated for a site. The work began in 1898, with a rented room over a stable in Dalcross street, seating several hundred.A second room, located in Fitzroy street, was a former drinking club.

The cost of a permanent site, on Monthremer Road, just off Crwys Road, was great, but the site, located at the heart of Cathays, was worth it. As work began on a massive hall, observers noted a well-dressed gentleman watching everything with keen interest. The question of his identity was only settled when a letter from Mr. Charles Pierce, JP, of Bangor, asking if he could do anything to help.

The hall (pictured) was opened in May 1900, with one of the stones dedicated to the memory of the deceased Edward Davies. Ceaseless growth in the Sunday School necessitated the building of a school hall (on the left of the picture), named after Charles Pierce, who covered almost a third of the cost. The space between the halls was intended for a training institute for the Movement's female workers. However, this vision died with Pugh.
Divided from Cathays by Cardiff cemetery is the Heath district, and it was here that Pugh concentrated his efforts following his return from America in 1900. A hall was erected following an open-air campaign. A church was formally constitued in January 1901, and the months that followed saw the church grow steadily.

Of all the former Forward Movement Halls, Heath has seen not only sustained growth over the years, but seasons of mighty blessing, most recently under the ministry of William Vernon Higham. Currently pastored by the Rev. Wyn Hughes, the Church is undergoing a period during which the heavens seem to be as brass, although there are still occasional touches of the Spirit.

The last of the halls in the Cathays area, situated on the junction of Harriet Street and Rhymney Street. Located close to the railway, it was run as a branch of Crwys Hall, with a lady evangelist in chage. Known as the King's Way Hall, this hall continued to minister to the poor and downtrodden, until its closure in 1998. It has since been acquired by the Welsh Evangelical Church.
And the blessing was also spreading to the West, along the coast of Wales.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

John Pugh XIV: Apostolic Ministry

As the work expanded, it would have been easy for Pugh, as director of the the work, to have taken a back seat, allowing Seth Joshua and the staff of the halls to take the lion's share of the work. But that was not his way. Pugh was happiest when ministering among the people. His daughter, later a worker for the Forward Movement, described his practice and preaching:

"It was my father's custom to preach in one of the mission halls every Sunday evening.... He would sit quietly in their midst and take note of those around him, watching them with friendly eyes as they sat listening to the orchestra and organ."

When the service began, Pugh would rise from his seat and move to the platform. His sermons were simple, striking and gripping. Pugh's Christianity was not that Christianity which is wary of giving direct, personal appeals to sinners. Pugh had a voice of command which seemed to demand a personal response. A person might reject Pugh's message, but he could not pass it by. After the service, Pugh would speak with those concerned for their souls in a counselling room, a practice which is still kept up in at least one of the former Forward Movement churches.

Another secret of Pugh's success was his absolute trust in those he worked with. When one of his colleagues offered to undertake a task, Pugh trusted him. This tendency to believe the best of people could hurt Pugh, if people proved unworthy of that trust. However, it could also bring out the best in people.

While Pugh took on much of the burden of the work, this could not have taken place without the support of a number of wealthy men. John Cory of Duffryn House (pictured) and his brother, Richard, were generous supporters of good works in Wales. They had given generously to support the work with released prisoners and helped pay for the erection of halls for the Forward Movement. A Spirit-filled Christian, Cory saw his wealth as God's gift, and determined to return much of it to the giver. While Cory could have easily secured election to Parliament, he saw this as a distraction, while his work on the Council allowed him to interact with the locality he loved so much.

The other major backer was Edward Davies, Llandinam, son of David Davies, Wales' first millionaire. It was his backing which ensured that the Forward Movement was not still-born. As long as his money backed Pugh, Pugh was able to offend some who would rather have rested secure in Zion. Edward Davies tragically early death in 1898, aged 45, robbed Pugh of a friend as well as a supporter.
Crucial for the respectability of a movement which some condemned as 'fanatical,' was the support of a number of well-regarded men within Calvinistic Methodism, including the Principals of the three colleges, Thomas Charles Edwards (naturally), D. Charles Davies and Owen Prys, the last of whom would see the movement grow into middle age. These men recognised that the only lasting hope for the church was the raw mission work, the concentration of the atoning blood which flowed on Calvary, not a cross obscured by cut flowers and the like, reduced to a mere ornament, not the bough on which the Prince of Life was broken; 'The Crown of pain to three and thirty years.'
And, despite the words of the scoffers, the work was beginning to expand.


The history of a denomination: XXVI.

(Blogger's playing silly beggars, so no illustration today)
1926 was notorious as the year of the General Strike, when the Trade Unions tried to overrule constitutional government and hold the country to ransom by a mass walk-out. It was over before the Assembly met, ended as Mr. Baldwin said, by "the triumph of commonsense." The Socialists had planned to bring down the government, and although they succeeded in costing the United Kingdom millions, they failed. There was no revolution.
The Assemblies were somewhat disturbed by the strike. They had to meet on the arranged days, but the strike affected public transport. Officials of the Assemblies arranged to meet on 18th May to transact necessary business, then the Assemblis were adjouned until 22nd June. In fact the strike only lasted from the 4th to the 12th of May, and the Assemblies were able to resume on 1st June.
The Moderator of the United Free Assembly in 1926 was Dr. George Herbert Morrison of Wellington Church, Glasgow (it has already been noted that the cities were over-represented among the Moderators of the United Free Church). Dr. Morrison was a Glasgow man, educated at the University and the United Free Church College there.
The 1926 Assembly, as well as being affected by Communism, was also affected by feminism (though at that time there was no thought of calling it Evangelical). Four Presbyteries, one in the mission field, sent an overture to the Assembly concerning the ordination of women to the eldership and ministry. Although claiming to be based on Scripture, the arguments in favour of the motion noticable ignored the Bible passesages that did NOT work in their favour. One man, Dr. Frank Knight, argued that 'lalein', the Greek verb rendered 'speak' in I Corinthians 14.34 meant 'to chatter'. One wonders how competent Dr. Knight's Greek really was if he thought that!
The Assembly did not just dismiss the proposal, but it was thought to be the wrong time to be dealing with such a serious matter, since the United Free Church was considering union with another Church that was not even considering the matter. After a healthy debate the question was dropped and the feminists were left unsatisfied.
The miners' strike was still going on when the Assembly met, and they recieved a deputation from the Scottish miners made up of three Socialist MPs. The deputies were less than honest with the Assembly, apparently forgetting that many of the delegates in the Assembly knew as much as they did about the miners - if not more. They knew many miners did not approve of the strke and were opposed to the policy of the Trade Unions. The Moderator politely thanked the deputies for their address, expressed sympathy with the miners, and explained that the United Free Church of Scotland could not pass an opinion on the situation.
Stanley Baldwin himself visited the 1926 Assembly and spoke to them, expressing his sympathy with them for seeking points of agreement rather than disagreement. The Moderator thanked Mr. Baldwin and presented a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Baldwin.
Dr. McCallum of Larkhall (near Glasgow), Moderator of the Church of Scotland, came with the greetings of his brethren. He said that the friendly conference between the two Churches had developed into a genuine 'courtship', and the Auld Kirk was only waiting for the United Free Church to 'name the day'. The Church of Scotland was now free from state control, what more was there to hinder Union?
As Dr. Henderson was incapacitated by the infirmities that would ultimately end his life, the report of the Conference Committee was given by Principal Martin of New College. Once again, as in 1900, the Principal of New College would lead the Union campaign - but Robert Rainy had hardly been the man who would lead a movement towards union with the Church of Scotland!
The Church had been polled on the question of Union, and the turnout had been low. It seemed most members of the United Free Church did not really care what their Church was called! Even in congregations which had voted against the union less than half of the membership had voted. Some of this was undoubtedly due to members who did not actually attend Church at all,, but that still left a lot of apathetic members. Martin pleaded to and end of 'ecclesiastical disputation'. The deliverance of the Assembly approved the report and proposed to appoint a special committee of a hundred members to prepare, in conjunction with a Church of Scotland committee, a provisional basis and plan of union.
Of course there was opposition. 285 congregations had declared against Union and 475 were, in the opinion of Mr. A. M. Smith of Moffat, 'seriously divided' (according to a very generous definition of 'seriously'). It was observed by a member of the Conference Committee that he had already heard all the speeches on the opposition side several times. The vote was 631 in favour of going forward and 115 for delay.
The Conference Committee was discharged, and in its place was appointed a new Committee. Offcially it retained the old name, but in fact it was known by a new name - the UNION Committee.

God willing, next time we shall see how that committee, and the rest of the Church, conducted itself through the Assembly of 1927.


John Pugh XV: The Work in Newport

The blessing began to spread form Cardiff, first to the growing town of Newport in Monmouthshire, to the East of Cardiff. In August 1895, the Joshua brothers plastered the town with posters. Like their chief, the brothers initially met with a frosty reception. Seth, distributing tracts in the park, was approached by an official, who informed the evangelist that this was against the rules. Seth gave him a tract, only to be rebuffed! Coming to a lodging-house, Seth spoke to a number of men there, and they sang some hymns. A number of meetings saw swelling numbers, with overflow meetings being held in the Corn Exchange, while Ebenezer Welsh chapel lent its premises. After twelve months of sustained evangelism, about one hundred had professed saving faith, enough for a new, English-speaking church to be formed. Soon, the Corn exchange proved too small for this church, and by the winter of 1898-9, three halls had to be used.

Lord Tredegar, a friend of the Movement, although an Anglican, gave a plot of land at the heart of the town, and it was here that the church's permanent home, Central Hall, was erected, with seating for 2,000 in the main hall, and two smaller halls, holding 800 people each. Mrs. Edwards Davies, Llandinam, officiated at the opening on 4 October, 1906, while John Pugh spoke in the evening, giving a resumé on the work of the movement from its beginning.

Elsewhere in Newport, another hall was already operating. Malpas Road Hall (pictured) had opened in 1897, without even the core of a church, an act of faith on Pugh's part which filled many with apprehension. But God had determined to bless the work, and a sizeable congregation gathered on the first Sunday (this method of starting a church is still not advised). Within five months the church had thirty members and one hundred and fifty in the young peoples' meetings. This church would be greatly blessed in 1905, and is still open today.

In Cardiff, the work was greatly prospering, and it is to this that we shall turn next time, God willing.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The history of a denomination: XXV.

The Assembly of 1925 met in a very different political atmosphere. The Socialist government was no more, and the Prime Minister was Stanley Baldwin, a Tory (see picture). The country was politically stable again, and the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments Act) 1925 had been passed and recieved the Royal Assent (this is more of a formality than anything else), clearing the second of the main obstacles to Union out of the way. The United Free Church had stood for 25 years and celebrations were planned -especially since few expected she would have fifty years, much less a centenary, in her present state. Perhaps a 'rump' of a United Free Church would see fifty, but not the united Church as it stood in 1925.
The Moderator in that memorable year was Dr. James Harvey of United Free Lady Glenorchy's, Edinburgh, Senior Principal Clerk of the Assembly.
Of the extra £20,000 needed by the Church's foreign missions, £18,000 had been raised. However £11,000 of expected income had fallen away due to a decrease in income from invested legacies. The Committee was intensely worried, but once again they were enabled to continue, making savings in administration and other matters that did not interfere with the work of overseas mission.
James Barr resigned from his post as Home Mission Secretary due to his victory in the general election. He had stood as Independent Labour candidate for Motherwell and won easily, defeating the sitting member, a Communist who had sealed his doom by sending a telegram reading 'Motherwell has declared for Moscow' to the Russian Soviet after the victory that had put him in place. Motherwell immediately declared against Moscow at the next opportunity. Barr's engergy was thrown into his work as an MP, but he remained the leader of his party in the Assembly, trying to use his position at Westminster to affect the Union plans.
Field-Marshal Earl Haig spoke to the Assembly on behalf of the British Legion, calling on their support for the institution of November 11th as Rememberance Day. The Church agreed.
Brotherly love from the Church of Scotland was in evidence at the visit from 'over the way'. One of the Church of Scotland Commissioners, Lord Sands, freely confessed that he had in his early days come to hate the Free Church with a violent hatred. That old hatred had passed away - as hatreds on the other side had. Abroad the Church of Scotland and United Free Church congregations in Central Africa had united, and at home the Church of Scotland was in full control of its property. Union negotiations proper could now begin. The Churches sought to prepare for a formal Union process most saw would begin in 1926, if a two-thirds majority in both Churches after consultation thought that the main obstacles had been removed.
James Barr moved an amendment denything that they HAD been removed and in his speech he threatened secession. Dr. Henderson declared that the obstacles to union WERE removed, the door was open - all they had to do was step through it. It would be a matter of the two Churches acting together. The state, he said, would be no-where. It was a speech worthy of a Moses - and like Moses, Dr. Henderson would not enter into the rest of his people - this was his last Assembly.
The vote was taken, and James Barr's motion was defeated. More hearteningly, the vote was only 104 in favour of James Barr.

In his closing address the Moderator referred to the history of the United Free Church, a history soon, it was hoped, to merge again with the Church of Scotland from which it had been separated. How this movement went in 1926 will be, God willing, or subject next time.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

John Pugh XIII: 'Forward!'

By this time Pugh's evangelistic efforts had acquired a name and an identity of their own, the General Assembly of the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion initially called the work "The Society for Church Extension and Mission Work," but this was later changed to "The Forward Movement." The Welsh version of this, Y Symudiad Ymosodol, 'The Aggressive Movement,' a title that summed up Pugh's approach perfectly. Never one to consolidate, Pugh would act, trusting God to provide, rather than making sure all the money and the back-up were present first.

Within the first year, Pugh had launche a monthy magazine, The Christian Standard, to keep the public informed about the work. In the first issue, John Pugh gave a five-point summary of its purpose:

1. To advocate aggressive evangelical and evangelistic work among the masses of the great centres of population which ordinary methods barely touch.

2. To impart fuller knowledge to our converts ofthe great truth of the Gospel through their own organ.

3. To give information to many friends throughout the country of God's doings in the various mission branches.

4. To warn the centres of the dangers of false religion which are now threatening our fatherland in the guise of Ritualism and Romanism. [This was the age of the Ritualist 'slum-priest,' such as 'Father' Griffith Arthur Jones at St. Mary's Church, Butetown, in Cardiff]

5. To interest mission churches in the activities of the churches as well as in the courts of our Connexion, so as to make them denominationally conscious.

In contrast to the wretched efforts of the recent 'decade of evangelism,' Pugh was no ecumenical bigot, but recognised that only robust evangelism by men who believed in the power of God to save souls would bring God's blessings. Pugh could have cordial relations with Independents and Baptists, but he was a Calvinistic Methodist, and the works he innaugurated would be organised along Calvinistic Methodist lines.
And God mightily blessed the work. By the end of the fist year, the Forward Movement had three centres, East Moors, Canton and Clive Street, which between them attracted 2,680 to hear the Word of Life preached, and 1,161 Sunday Scholars. But there was more land to be conquered. Most of Canaan still lay before the pioneers.


The history of a denomination: XXIV.

The opening of the United Free Church Assembly of 1924 was broadcast on the BBC (radio, of course). It also had a Lord High Commissioner who was not from the nobility (or the 'nonconformist nobility' such as Lloyd-George), but he was the Socialist MP Mr. James Brown, a working coal-miner.
The Socialists were in office, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald (illustrated), was a United Free Churchman. It was thought by some that a miner Lord High Commissioner might give offence. He did, but to some of his own side when he said that the aristocracy weren't at all bad, really.
The Moderator in 1924 was Dr. Alexander S. Inch of the United Free High Church, Dumbarton. A large man, he was nicknamed 'the Square Inch' by his friends from New College. Indeed it had been thought that the Moderator's chair would have to be enlarged to admit him! Mercifully it was just large enough. Dr. Inch's opening address dealt with the Christian pastorate and was a call on ministers to turn their attention back to PROCLAIMING Christ, not just explaining and defending Him.
Again the United Free Church foreign missions were in need of money. And this should not be wondered at, if they were agressively expanding the work and making Christ known where before He was not. Many were being reached, and Churches were being formed on the mission field. But success requires money, and missionary giving was not expanding as had been hoped. It was suggested that the work might have to be cut back, but that the Assembly would not do. They knew that it would be an act of flagrant disobedience to Him who said 'go ye into all the world.'
William Watson of Alloa (a plac in Scotland, not as one might think, a South Sea island) made an impassioned appeal to the membership, and a motion was proposed that the missions be carried on without curtailment for a year while the Church raised the £20,000 extra funds needed. The Moderator said he would be glad to go around the galleries and take a collection in his hat but feared it would not be practical (some of the aisles and gangways were rather narrow). Before the end of the evening £1000 had been promised. Before the end of the Assembly nearly five thousand punds had been given and another thousand promised.
It was a good thing that the missions had not been cut back, for 1924 was the centenary of the undivided Church of Scotland's historic motion approving foreign missions. Before then the Church of Scotland, dominated by the 'Moderate' party, had disapproved of them, leaving it to the Baptists and other nonconformists to take the Gospel 'into all the world'. When Dr. Inch crossed 'over the way' to the Church of Scotland Assembly, he carried with him the congratulations of the United Free Church on the anniversary.
The question of 'spiritual healing' came up at this Assembly and passed on to a less than enthusiastic committee, many of whom one suspects were confirmed as cessationists by the way the issue was shuufled off onto them.
The change of government was a cause for concern in view of the Union negotiations. It threw everything into a temporary uncertainty. Dr. Henderson pointed out that the Church of Scotland had placed their temporalities in the hands of the government for a final settlement so that afterwards the Church would be able to do what she pleased with them. The opposition continued to presss for some sort of disendowment, forgetting that one of the conditions on which the Church of Scotland had entered into Union talks was that her property not be secularized but retained for religious purposes. And what, we would ask, would do the nation more good than that?
It was at this Assembly that the opposition vote reached its high water-mark - 138 to 375. With such a strong position as a minority, James Barr and his fellows began to talk of division if union was agreed on any terms but their own. A group called the United Free Church Association had been formed to prosecute this aim, which seemed to many to be the relic of a bygone and largely irrelevant age. An attempt to have the Assembly condemn this group was defeated by those who argued that to do such a thing would give the Association a legitimacy it did not deserve.

In his closing address the Moderator reminded the Assembly that the question of 'how to reach the masses' came down to reaching, not a 'mass' of people, but individuals with the Gospel. So it is, Dr. Inch, and so it will always be. Although our series is about Assemblies, we must reach sinners one by one, and God calls them each by name.

God willing, next time we shall see how 1925 brought Union closer and the spectre of division began to gather a corporeal form.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday Quote : Thomas Chalmers - Bible Versions

"Take all the English translations, either of the whole Bible or different books of it, and collate them with our Authorized Version - only excepting those which have been executed for a sectarian purpose, and so of course the version of the Unitarians [today we might say the New World Translation] - and then tell us, if you can, what the doctrinal amount is of all the variations which have been submitted to you. In some you may miss a few proof-passages for one or other of the doctrines, but not so as to expunge these doctrines from Christianity, for there still remains in each translation an abundant testimony in their favour. In other words, through these different media you look substantially to one and the same Bible, and recognize in each the same orthodoxy, or the same credenda and the same agenda in all of them"

- 'Institutes of Theology' (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1849), Vol. 2 Pp. 22-3.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

John Pugh XII: The Work Expands

The tent at East Moors was destroyed, but the work went on. A temporary wooden building, with seating for 500, known as 'Noah's Ark' was erected in early November of 1891. By the summer of 1892, that building had been supplanted by a purpose-built hall seating 1,000 and costing £2,000. Designed by Fawkner of Habershon and Fawckner, Cardiff, the hall was light and airy, in contrast the the heavy decoration of many Welsh chapels. Himself a Christian, Fawckner had long dreamed of building such halls. Even so, there was a certain poingiancy in paying farewell to the wooden hall, where so many had been born from above. One elderly woman at the service echoed the feelings of many in her prayer:

"Lord, thank you for this fine building, but we have a 'hiraeth' for Noah's Ark. That's where we saw your glory and where we first proved the joy of your salvation."

H. G. Howells, who had ministered there since July 1891, became the first minister of the congregation at East Moors Hall, while the mission moved on, into the Canton district of the city, Joshua erecting a tent there on 28th June 1891. Again, Seth Joshua took morning and evening services, while John Pugh preached in the afternoon. When inclement weather began to threaten the tent, the work was moved to the loft of an undertaker's workshop.

This inauspicious setting became known as 'the upper room;' Seth Joshua observed that: 'Mr. Marsh [the undertaker] is in one room making coffins for the dead, and I am in another room trying to raise the dead."

Canton was notorious for its drinking clubs and vice. Before the coming of Pugh and Joshua, a non-denominational evangelical group had erected a mission hall seating 350 in Clive road, about a mile to the west of the centre of Canton. They had met with little success, and in September 1891, the hall was offered to Pugh for £470. Pugh accepted it at once, bringing in Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Ray to superintend the work. It was not an easy situation, but the sort that cried out to Pugh, who later observed:

"There were two notorious streets on both sides of the Mission Hall; and the vicinity seemed left without let or hindrance as the happy hunting ground of the enemy."

Still, the work was greatly blessed, and soon a new hall, seating 500, had to be erected. At the same time, great efforts were made to clothe the naked and feed the hungry, understanding that a man cannot hear the Gospel if the rumbling of his stomach is too loud.
People had begun to take notice of this new work, and now it had a name: 'The Forward Movement.'


Friday, March 09, 2007

John Pugh XI: The Splott Campaign

Visible from Clifton Street, the Splott district of Cardiff teemed with life, and with sin. John Pugh yearned to reach out to the sinners of Splott. At first, Pugh met with nothing but indifference. Still, Pugh went ahead with his plans, procuring a plot of land close to the centre of Splott in 1891, planning to erect a tent there. His opponents viewed this with scorn by many, one critic declaring: "You might as well try to demolish the rock of Gibraltar with boiled peas as to convert the people of Splott in a tent."

Pugh was not discouraged, far from it. By this time a name of an ally had come to him: Seth Joshua of Neath. Converted from a labouring background about ten years earlier, Seth and his brother Frank had established a mission at Neath. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Joshua came to Pugh and offered his assistance. The partnership that would lead to the conversion of many hundreds, had begun.

Together, the two evangelists set about putting up the tent, borrowed for the purpose of evangelism. The sight of these big men erecting a tent at the centre of Splott drew interested observers. One of the rougher characters of Splott paused to ask what was going on. He approached Seth:

"Hullo, guvnor," he asked, "what's this, a boxing show?"

"There is going to be some fighting here," Seth replied.

"When are you going to start?"

"Tomorrow Morning at 11am."

"Tomorrow's Sunday."

"Well, better the day, better the deed."

"Who's on?"

"I've got to take the first round."

"Who's with you?"

"He's a chap called Beelzebub."

"Never heard of him, who's he?"

"Oh, he's a smart one I can tell you. Come tomorrow morning."

"I'll be there."

Others asked whether the meeting would resemble those of the Salvation Army, 'with tambourines and the like.' Pugh replied that the meeting would be bereft of such innovations, consisting of singing and preaching: 'red-hot from the heart.'

On the day, Seth Joshua took the morning and evening services, while Pugh, occupied in Clifton Street for the normal services, preached in the afternoon. The man who had spoken to Seth was there, although he must have known that this was a Gospel service. From the first hymn, 'all hail the Power of Jesus' name,' the Holy Spirit began to work on his heart. He was converted that day.

From 5th May, 1891, until the 13th October, when the tent was destroyed in high winds, the Holy Spirit worked mightily under the canvas. Hundreds of men and women were converted. Crowds flocked to the tent, and a separate tent for the children was erected. It was clear that the work had to go on, tent or no tent.


Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

This coming Lord's Day I am due to preach at the Strict Baptist Chapel in Barrow, Suffolk, near Bury St. Edmunds.I know very little about the Church beyond the fact that they use the Authorised Version of the Bible and Gadsby's Hymns. Services are at 11.00 in the morning and 6.00 in the evening.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

John Pugh X: Moody and Sankey Come to Cardiff

Not only did 1891 see the flowering of the work among released prisoners, but an event took place which was to further concentrate Pugh's thoughts on the teeming multitudes of Cardiff. The American evangelists Moody and Sankey held a mission in Cardiff, the meetings for which were held at Wood Street Congregational Church, the largest church building in Cardiff (demolished 1970s). Long queues formed outside the church early in the morning, as the masses sought to gain entrance to the meetings, as much to sing the vigorous hymns of the evangelists as to hear the Gospel. It is worth noting that Pugh favoured such a style of hymn in evangelism, and felt that much of the opposition to them had as much to do with snobbery as theology, a symptom of the way in which the Church was alienating herself from the masses.

Pugh met with Moody, and, perhaps not unsurpringly, they became close. Pugh took his daughter to hear Moody preach, visiting the evangelist at the home of Richard Cory. Moody asked John Pugh to return with him to Chicago. Pugh replied that Cardiff was the Chicago of Wales. Good soldier that he was, Pugh was determined to remain at his post.

The greatest effect that the mission had on Pugh was to show the need of the people of Cardiff. In the time since his arrival at Clifton Street, Pugh had undertaken a close study of Cardiff and its needs. The population of Cardiff was estimated at 128,000, with multitudes pouring into the town every day. The total seating capacity of the town's churches was 49,178, less than half that. How, Pugh asked, could the churches be sincere in inviting sinners to come to Christ when they could not handle them?

And Pugh had far more than a grasp of statistics. He had the contacts, both the religious leaders, such as Thomas Charles Edwards, and the civil, such as the Cory brothers. In this time, he also made contact with the Davies family of Llandinam, particularly Edward Davies, a willing financier of the work, being the son of Wales' first home-made millionaire. He was impressed with Pugh, and became his treasurer.

Pugh's first campaign was not far from his base camp of Clifton Street, the teeming working-class district of Splott, within sight of the spire of Clifton Street.


The history of a denomination: XXIII.

Dr. David Cairns (pictured), Professor of Systematic Theology in the United Free Church College, Aberdeen, was the Moderator of the 1923 United Free Assembly. Cairns was a former United Presbyterian, educated at Edinburgh University and the old United Presbyterian College. In 1895 he had been ordained as pastor of the United Presbyterian Church at Ayton in Berwickshire, and in 1907 he had been called to his Chair at Aberdeen. As a theology professor, Cairns took a deep interest in the youth of the Church. He saw that all was not rosy in the United Free Church, yet he was young enough not to be a decided member of the Disestablishment party.
The year of 1923 was significant to Dr. Cairns in another way also - after the death of Principal Iverach of Aberdeen a few weeks after the Assembly of 1922 the Assembly now appointed Cairns to the Principalship of Aberdeen.
The Dundee Presbytery had sent up an overture calling for the preparation of a new Confession to supercede that prepared by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. The twentieth century, it was argued, had changed everything, casting the Christian faith into a new mould, approaching the faith differently. Now we do not deny this, but we deny that what was being thus expressed was in fact the Christian faith at all. It is precisely this departing from the faith that made it inadvisible for ANY revision, much less a new confession, to be prepared at that time. Among other things the Union movement doomed this overture to failure - if the United Free Church were to adopt a new confession it would have thrown up a further barrier to union with the Church of Scotland. As things stood, the Churches could unite on the basis of the Confession.

The Assembly was mostly taken up with the Haldane Report on the temporalities of the Church of Scotland. The Haldane Report was a government report dealing with existing law affected by the Church of Scotland Act (1921) and the further legislative changes necessary to facilitate the coming Union. The Report's reccomendations, if carried out, would give the Church of Scotland full control over all her property, lands, manses, churches, endowments and so on. The official deliverance proposed welcomed the Report and directed the Committee responsible to disseminate information about it through the Church.
The first amendment proposed to this was essentially one of delay. It was movd by Dr. Young that the Assembly pronounce no immediate opinion on the Haldane Report, but send them down, together with the 1921 Act and the Declaratory Articles of the Church of Scotland, to be considered by the office-bearers and the members of the Church.
What is interesting about this suggestion is that it is very much what the Constitutionalist party in theold Free Church proposed before the Union of 1900. Those who were calling for it now were the very people who had ignored the Constitutionalist plea before 1900!
Dr. Young's reason was not that he wanted to prevent Union, but that he was afraid of the Church splitting when Union came. This way he hoped to be able to bring everyone in.
Another amendment, submitted by Mr. Small of Berwick, declared that only complete disestablishment and disendowment could possible form the basis of any Union. This would have meant that Church of Scotland ministers coming into the Union would have no salary or next to no salary! What was more, Small's position was that the government should be completely indifferent to all religion - which is logically atheism!
The vote decided against both amendements by a large majority - about ninety per cent of the members.
The Church and State Committee was divided. A large minority had wanted to blast the Haldane Report, but the majority won out, and so the report submitted by the Committee was a gagged, edited version of what had been intended. However the minority managed to get their position out in the debate. The 'teinds' (roughly equivalent to the tithes) were, they declared, not the property of the Church but of the nation, and as such they should be employed for the national good.
Two assumptions were made here. Firstly, that the Church of Scotland was not doing any good to the nation. Second, that something expressly given to the Church had not in fact been so given.
And the majority of the Assembly refused to be led by such people. They continued to press on towards Union.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what 1924 brought.